Windows ME: I've got the power

Many notebook users often complain about their battery life, and time - or even work - lost due to poor endurance. There is a way to slightly extend the life of your battery, mainly by specifying the settings found in Windows Me's Power Options. You can adjust the time of inactivity it takes for your computer's devices to power down. So, while you're sitting under a tree in the park twiddling your thumbs trying to think of an opening to an article, for example, your computer can take a bit of a break, too, and power down until you've gathered your thoughts and are ready to get back to it.

Here's a brief description of what can be found in Windows Me's Power Options and how you can utilise its features to your benefit.

SAVING POWER

Most new notebook computers can provide up to 90 minutes of regular use until they conk out, so it's up to you to make sure that your computer is optimally configured for working on the road. To do this, go to the Control Panel and open up the Power Options applet. From here, you will be able to see the different power schemes available to you (from the Power Schemes tab) and you will even be able to create your own custom scheme. The default schemes are Always On, Portable and Home. These specify how long it takes to power down devices such as your display and hard disk after a predetermined amount of inactivity, and there are separate settings for when your computer is plugged in or running on batteries. Make sure you manipulate the right one! You can change the values in the dropdown boxes to something more suitable to your style of use but, remember, if you set too low a value - such as two minutes until your screen powers off - it could get annoying. Once you've created a custom scheme you can save it by clicking on the Save As button and giving it a unique identifier, such as 'At the park' (see FIGURE 1).

STANDBY AND HIBERNATION

You will notice that from the Power Schemes tab you can also affect the time it takes for your system to go into standby mode. In this mode, your monitor and hard disks will turn off after your preset time limit is reached and your data will be kept in memory. You can bring the system back to life either by moving the pointing device or hitting the keyboard or the power button.

Hibernation mode takes a slightly more drastic measure to conserve your power: it saves everything that is currently in memory to your hard disk, and turns off your computer. Consequently, when you restart, your desktop appears just as it was before hibernation.

Not all notebook computers support hibernation, so this feature may not be available to you. If you can see the Hibernate tab in the Power Options Properties, then you're in luck. You can enable hibernation from here by placing a check mark next to the box and clicking Apply. This causes the Hibernate feature to appear as an option when you shut down your computer. This can be beneficial in emergencies, too: for example, you're in a hurry and don't want to wade through and close numerous windows or applications; instead, you can simply elect to hibernate and everything will be as you left it.

As hibernation is also a hardware driver characteristic, it may not always be successful, so the least you should do is make sure your work is saved - just in case.

You can set your computer to hibernate automatically after a predetermined amount of time from the Power Schemes tab.

SET THE ALARM

It is very important to know the state of your battery when working away from an outlet: you don't want to be caught short while you're in the middle of any important work. Therefore, it is always a good idea to set the available alarms to notify you when battery power reaches a certain level.

Go to the Alarms tab, where you will find settings for two states, Low and Critical. Check both the boxes if they are not already checked and set the Low battery alarm to around 5 per cent and the Critical Battery alarm to around 3 per cent. Clicking on the Alarm action of each will let you specify which action is taken when these levels are reached and how you are notified. You have options of text messages and audible warnings and can also choose to go automatically into standby or hibernation mode, or even turn off. Generally, the first alarm should take no action - this gives you time to save your work and quit open applications - and the second should be set either to hibernate or power off the system. n TIPFrom the Advanced tab in the Power Options Properties, you can specify the action that should occur when you close the lid of your notebook or when you press the power button. The options are standby, hibernate or turn off the unit.

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